A recent encounter in which four Jaish-e-Mohammed militants were killed in Budgam’s Pakharpora area is being seen as the security forces’ maiden entry into an area popularly known as ‘Tora Bora’ because of the heavy presence of foreign militants there, officials here said.
The militants are often in hiding in the area’s deep forests, a maze not very different from the labyrinth of caves of Taliban-controlled Tora Bora in northern Afghanistan, they said.
The Special Operations Group of Jammu and Kashmir police and Army carried out its first operation in this region on Thursday, killing the four terrorists.
In April this year, two militants were killed at Hyat Pura, 8km from Pakharpora, but that officials said was a chance encounter as the incident followed a routine check.
Militants have been particularly active over the last year in Pakharpora, located strategically in the district of Budgam, for it leads into South Kashmir as well as Srinagar city.
Heightened militancy this year has been receiving ground support, with local people strongly resisting the forces, especially during counter-insurgency operations.
The Valley’s ‘Tora Bora’ had figured prominently in many meetings of security agencies after the area, 45km from here, became the infiltration route for militants entering South Kashmir, the epicentre of unrest following the killing of Burhan Wani, the poster boy of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group, on July 8 last year.
An official said the region has become the “reception area” for foreign militants who sneak into South Kashmir via Pakharpora. The dense forests and deep gorges in the region provide a natural cover to the militants.
There is also a constant stream of people visiting Pakharpora because of a shrine there which has become popular in the last couple of years. This makes it difficult for security forces to swiftly identify the militants, the official said.
After it came to light that terrorists were using public roads instead of the usual mountainous path while moving towards the south, security agencies had suggested barricading the roads and increasing patrolling in the area — a move turned down by the state government.
Not much has been done to plug this route despite repeated warnings by the central intelligence agencies, official sources said.
However, the Army recently moved in a battalion comprising 1000 men around the area and also established a camp near Pakharpora, which is a part of the Beerwah Assembly constituency represented by former chief minister Omar Abdullah, to give a semblance of security to the region.
According to intelligence reports, accessed by PTI, there are various villages around Pakharpora which witness militant movements and have a network of militants.
These villages include Kuzwera, Magray Pora, Behrampora, Kaisemullah, Gowharpora, Qazipora, Wanbugh, Hayat Pora, Malpora, Tujan and Dalwan, the reports said.
The reports highlighted that these areas are among the most dangerous in the twin districts of pulwama and Budgam.